In the storm-tossed Chilean sea lives the rosy conger, giant eel of snowy flesh. And in Chilean stewpots, along the coast, was born the chowder, thick and succulent, a boon to man. You bring the conger, skinned, to the kitchen (its mottled skin slips off like a glove, leaving the grape of the sea exposed to the world), naked, the tender eel glistens, prepared to serve our appetites. Now you take garlic, first, caress that precious ivory, smell its irate fragrance, then blend the minced garlic with onion and tomato until the onion is the color of gold. Meanwhile steam our regal ocean prawns, and when they are tender, when the savor is set in a sauce combining the liquors of the ocean and the clear water released from the light of the onion, then you add the eel that it may be immersed in glory, that it may steep in the oils of the pot, shrink and be saturated. Now all that remains is to drop a dollop of cream into the concoction, a heavy rose, then slowly deliver the treasure to the flame, until in the chowder are warmed the essences of Chile, and to the table come, newly wed, the savors of land and sea, that in this dish you may know heaven.
Ode to Wine
Day-colored wine, night-colored wine, wine with purple feet or wine with topaz blood, wine, starry child of earth, wine, smooth as a golden sword, soft as lascivious velvet, wine, spiral-seashelled and full of wonder, amorous, marine; never has one goblet contained you, one song, one man, you are choral, gregarious, at the least, you must be shared. At times you feed on mortal memories; your wave carries us from tomb to tomb, stonecutter of icy sepulchers, and we weep transitory tears; your glorious spring dress is different, blood rises through the shoots, wind incites the day, nothing is left of your immutable soul. Wine stirs the spring, happiness bursts through the earth like a plant, walls crumble, and rocky cliffs, chasms close, as song is born. A jug of wine, and thou beside me in the wilderness, sang the ancient poet. Let the wine pitcher add to the kiss of love its own.
My darling, suddenly the line of your hip becomes the brimming curve of the wine goblet, your breast is the grape cluster, your nipples are the grapes, the gleam of spirits lights your hair, and your navel is a chaste seal stamped on the vessel of your belly, your love an inexhaustible cascade of wine, light that illuminates my senses, the earthly splendor of life.
But you are more than love, the fiery kiss, the heat of fire, more than the wine of life; you are the community of man, translucency, chorus of discipline, abundance of flowers. I like on the table, when we're speaking, the light of a bottle of intelligent wine. Drink it, and remember in every drop of gold, in every topaz glass, in every purple ladle, that autumn labored to fill the vessel with wine; and in the ritual of his office, let the simple man remember to think of the soil and of his duty, to propagate the canticle of the wine.
Ode to Maize
America, from a grain of maize you grew to crown with spacious lands the ocean foam. A grain of maize was your geography. >From the grain a green lance rose, was covered with gold, to grace the heights of Peru with its yellow tassels.
But, poet, let history rest in its shroud; praise with your lyre the grain in its granaries: sing to the simple maize in the kitchen.
First, a fine beard fluttered in the field above the tender teeth of the young ear. Then the husks parted and fruitfulness burst its veils of pale papyrus that grains of laughter might fall upon the earth. To the stone, in your journey, you returned. Not to the terrible stone, the bloody triangle of Mexican death, but to the grinding stone, sacred stone of your kitchens. There, milk and matter, strength-giving, nutritious cornmeal pulp, you were worked and patted by the wondrous hands of dark-skinned women.
Wherever you fall, maize, whether into the splendid pot of partridge, or among country beans, you light up the meal and lend it your virginal flavor.
Oh, to bite into the steaming ear beside the sea of distant song and deepest waltz. To boil you as your aroma spreads through blue sierras.
But is there no end to your treasure?
In chalky, barren lands bordered by the sea, along the rocky Chilean coast, at times only your radiance reaches the empty table of the miner.
Your light, your cornmeal, your hope pervades America's solitudes, and to hunger your lances are enemy legions.
Within your husks, like gentle kernels, our sober provincial children's hearts were nurtured, until life began to shuck us from the ear.
Ode to Tomatoes
The street filled with tomatoes, midday, summer, light is halved like a tomato, its juice runs through the streets. In December, unabated, the tomato invades the kitchen, it enters at lunchtime, takes its ease on countertops, among glasses, butter dishes, blue saltcellars. It sheds its own light, benign majesty. Unfortunately, we must murder it: the knife sinks into living flesh, red viscera a cool sun, profound, inexhaustible, populates the salads of Chile, happily, it is wed to the clear onion, and to celebrate the union we pour oil, essential child of the olive, onto its halved hemispheres, pepper adds its fragrance, salt, its magnetism; it is the wedding of the day, parsley hoists its flag, potatoes bubble vigorously, the aroma of the roast knocks at the door, it's time! come on! and, on the table, at the midpoint of summer, the tomato, star of earth, recurrent and fertile star, displays its convolutions, its canals, its remarkable amplitude and abundance, no pit, no husk, no leaves or thorns, the tomato offers its gift of fiery color and cool completeness.
Ode to a Lemon
Out of lemon flowers loosed on the moonlight, love's lashed and insatiable essences, sodden with fragrance, the lemon tree's yellow emerges, the lemons move down from the tree's planetarium
Delicate merchandise! The harbors are big with it- bazaars for the light and the barbarous gold. We open the halves of a miracle, and a clotting of acids brims into the starry divisions: creation's original juices, irreducible, changeless, alive: so the freshness lives on in a lemon, in the sweet-smelling house of the rind, the proportions, arcane and acerb.
Cutting the lemon the knife leaves a little cathedral: alcoves unguessed by the eye that open acidulous glass to the light; topazes riding the droplets, altars, aromatic facades.
So, while the hand holds the cut of the lemon, half a world on a trencher, the gold of the universe wells to your touch: a cup yellow with miracles, a breast and a nipple perfuming the earth; a flashing made fruitage, the diminutive fire of a planet.
Ode to an Artichoke
The artichoke of delicate heart erect in its battle-dress, builds its minimal cupola; keeps stark in its scallop of scales. Around it, demoniac vegetables bristle their thicknesses, devise tendrils and belfries, the bulb's agitations; while under the subsoil the carrot sleeps sound in its rusty mustaches. Runner and filaments bleach in the vineyards, whereon rise the vines. The sedulous cabbage arranges its petticoats; oregano sweetens a world; and the artichoke dulcetly there in a gardenplot, armed for a skirmish, goes proud in its pomegranate burnishes. Till, on a day, each by the other, the artichoke moves to its dream of a market place in the big willow hoppers: a battle formation. Most warlike of defilades- with men in the market stalls, white shirts in the soup-greens, artichoke field marshals, close-order conclaves, commands, detonations, and voices, a crashing of crate staves.
And Maria come down with her hamper to make trial of an artichoke: she reflects, she examines, she candles them up to the light like an egg, never flinching; she bargains, she tumbles her prize in a market bag among shoes and a cabbage head, a bottle of vinegar; is back in her kitchen. The artichoke drowns in a pot.
So you have it: a vegetable, armed, a profession (call it an artichoke) whose end is millennial. We taste of that sweetness, dismembering scale after scale. We eat of a halcyon paste: it is green at the artichoke heart.